Editor’s Miscellany: Bookish Pleasures

December 20, 2012

By Kyle Hoepner

There’s just something about books and bookshelves–preferably lots and lots of them–that will give a room an amazing sense of comfort and warmth. Whether your own collection, painstakingly (or offhandedly) assembled since second grade, or the product of a quick foray by your designer to one of the numerous online sources touting “books by the yard,†those packed ranks of variously colored spines convey a sense of civilized calm that’s scarcely achievable in any other way. And if the odd extra stack or two ends up on a table or the floor? You get extra points, in my view.

A particularly extensive library wall in textile and rug designer Rosemary Hallgarten’s home, to be viewable soon in the Winter 2013 issue of New England Home Connecticut. Photo by John Bessler for New England Home.

Unusual book towers frame a fireplace in this Connecticut library by designer Kristin Gallipoli. Photo by John Gruen for New England Home; click to see more.

A library needn’t feel stuffy or old. This one, in Alessandra Branca’s Atelier Branca, really pops in hues of red, black and gold. Photo by John Bessler, courtesy of Traditional Home.

Feel free to intersperse a selection of choice objects–carved boxes, small sculptures, mismatched bookends, finials, family photos, drawings, perhaps a dried and varnished puffer fish–to get that cabinet de curiosités effect. Or hang a few pictures in front of the shelves (although this is a pretty good indicator that your books aren’t frequently used).

This library belonging to antique dealer Carole Winer-Sorensen has, unsurprisingly, just the right combination of eclectic furniture and decorative finds. Photo by Miki Duisterhof for New England Home; click to see more.

A similar effect is achieved in a different tonal key by homeowner Nancy Ross in New Hampshire. Photo by Laura Moss for New England Home; click to see more.

Older glass-front library cases can be a lot of fun, and I’ve particularly enjoyed how inventively designers in recent years have been using color or pattern on the shelves, bookcase back or the wall behind to pull a room’s color palette together.

A late nineteenth-century Globe-Wernicke bookcase with leaded glass, from garycsharpe.blogspot.com.

A Fifth Avenue apartment by Timothy Haynes and Kevin Roberts: mirrored backs, it looks like, but plenty of color on the fronts, sides, tops, bottoms…pretty much everywhere. Photo by William Waldron, courtesy of Elle Decor.

A hand-painted herringbone pattern backs up the shelves in another New York apartment, by designer Christina Murphy. Photo by Jonny Valiant, courtesy of House Beautiful.

Can this kind of biblio-love be taken too far? Yes, I suppose. But then again, my own little urban nest has entirely run out of wall space for shelves, which now are being set back-to-back à la library stacks–and I’m not a bit sorry.

Another book-related space you may enjoy:
Little Big House: One compact building in New Hampshire’s White Mountains functions as guesthouse, library, tennis-viewing pavilion and boathouse.


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